Press Release | April 27, 2012

Hagan and Burr run over sea turtles, rare birds, pedestrians, and tourism to unleash off-road vehicles in Cape Hatteras National Seashore

U.S. Senators Hagan (D-NC) and Burr (R-NC) yesterday introduced a bill to overturn the National Park Service plan to manage beach driving within Cape Hatteras National Seashore. The following is a statement from National Audubon Society, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Southern Environmental Law Center:

“We can’t be more disappointed in Senators Hagan and Burr’s disregard of facts, sound science, federal laws, and years of public participation and constituents’ comments by introducing a bill to overturn the National Park Service plan to manage driving on the beaches at Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

“In the four years under temporary safeguards and ORV restrictions to manage beach driving until this plan was adopted, visitation to the seashore and tourism revenue increased and nesting birds and sea turtles began to recover from significant losses.

“A vast majority of over 21,000 citizens who commented on the National Park Service rule supported restrictions on beach driving to protect wildlife and provide safe areas for visitors and families to walk on the beach. It’s difficult to understand why Senators Hagan and Burr would allow the small percentage of seashore visitors who drive on beaches to dictate the management of a national resource that belongs to all Americans.

“The Senators’ “beach roadkill” bill introduced April 26th seeks to overturn safeguards by the National Park Service that ensure responsible vehicle operations in the presence of nesting sea turtles and birds, and pedestrians. “The new National Park Service rule still designates ORV use on the majority of the national seashore and keeps all of the seashore’s beaches open to pedestrians. Twenty-eight of the seashore’s 67 miles are set aside as year-round ORV routes with only 26 miles designated as year-round vehicle-free areas for pedestrians, families, and wildlife. The remaining 13 miles of seashore are seasonally open to ORVs, but reserved for pedestrians during the peak tourism seasons. While some small areas may be temporarily closed to allow birds and sea turtles to nest, the new plan also proposes new parking facilities, access ramps, and water shuttles to increase visitor access to Cape Hatteras National Seashore beaches.”

Background:

• The long-awaited ORV management rule is the final step in a process agreed to by all parties—including Cape Hatteras Access Preservation Alliance and local counties—concerned about beach driving in the national seashore. During an interim management period prior to the Park Service’s January rulemaking, rare bird and sea turtle populations showed signs of recovery, park visitation held steady or increased annually, and tourism remained strong in Dare County, NC, where much of the seashore is located, despite a nationwide recession.
• Tourism flourished in Dare County during the period when interim protections under a Consent Decree were in place. Rental occupancy receipts in Dare County increased by millions over the previous decade as recorded by the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau. Park visitation and gross occupancy in Dare County during peak breeding and nesting season under interim management held steady or increased compared to the three preceding years. According to a state report on tourism for 2009-2010, Dare County experienced an 8.8 percent growth in tourism—placing it among the top growth counties in the state during a recession. The county’s strong tourism industry employed 11,260 people with $172 million in payroll and generated $44.55 million in tax receipts for the state and $39.78 million in local tax receipts.
• As a unit of the National Park System, Cape Hatteras National Seashore has been required under federal law since 1972 to establish guidelines that to manage off-road vehicles in such a way to minimize harm to the wildlife and other natural resources of the seashore in accordance with the best available science, to minimize conflicts with other, non-vehicle-based uses of the seashore, and to preserve the seashore for present and future generations. After decades of non-compliance, the new rules bring the NPS into compliance with that requirement.

Note to editors:
• Charts showing data for wildlife numbers at Cape Hatteras National Seashore as reported by NPS are available at: https://www.southernenvironment.org/cases/beach_driving_on_cape_hatteras_national_seashore/cape_hatteras_national_seashore_species_under_consent_decree/
• Dare County Gross Occupancy graphs as reported by the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau are available at https://www.southernenvironment.org/uploads/pages/Dare%20County%20Gross%20Occupancy%201994-2011.pdf and https://www.southernenvironment.org/uploads/pages/Dare%20County%20Gross%20Occupancy%202005-2011.pdf
• A chart of Cape Hatteras National Seashore Visitation as reported by NPS is available at https://www.southernenvironment.org/uploads/pages/CHNS%20Visitation%202005-2011.pdf
• Photos of birds and sea turtles on Cape Hatteras habitats are available by contacting iphillips@audubon.org

About Defenders of Wildlife
Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With more than 1 million members, supporters and subscribers, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. www.defenders.org

About National Audubon Society
The National Audubon Society has more than one million members and supporters, offices in 23 states, and a presence in all 50 states through more than 467 certified chapters, nature centers, sanctuaries, and education and science programs. Locally, Audubon maintains a North Carolina state office which works on behalf of Audubon’s more than 14,000 members and supporters in ten chapters across state. Audubon’s mission is to conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife, and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and the earth’s biological diversity. It carries out that mission nationally through a variety of activities including education, habitat conservation and public policy advocacy.
www.ncaudubon.org

 

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Kathleen Sullivan

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Email: ksullivan@selcnc.org